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Reserving A Place In The Express Lane To Ehell

Yesterday, I was at the local store to pick up about 8 items, I was in a hurry so when I was ready to check out I got into the express lane. The express lanes are usually reserved for people with 20 items or less, sometimes people don’t follow that rule, but life goes on.

Yesterday however, when I got in line, there were 2 people in front of me, a young man who was starting to pay and a woman who didn’t have any items. I figured the woman was getting something that she couldn’t get in the store, like cigarettes or stamps. When she arrived to the register the man behind the register asked what he could get for her and she responded with, “Oh, nothing, my husband is on his way with our groceries.” We all proceed to wait for her husband to arrive, which he did pretty quickly. On the other hand, he arrived with a basket with no less than 50 items.

It’s not like it was the biggest inconvenience ever, but I thought it was incredibly rude to get in line before having your groceries and then bringing far more than you’re supposed. 0829-11


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • chechina October 5, 2011, 1:47 pm

    Wow! I have to agree that there’s no saves or cuts at the grocery store. I doubt the OP was buying bread in Stalinist Russia; I don’t see why that sort of thing is necessary.

    But that reminds me of something I want some advice on, if I may…

    There’s a big discount supermarket near where I live that is always packed, with exceedingly long lines. I always go in to get the two or three items that I can only find there. The express line is often the longest, busiest line, full of people carrying more than 10 items, so I’ll get in a regular line. And I’ve had other customers in line ask me, “Is that all you’re getting? Why don’t you go in the express line?” I’ll point it out and explain that it’s the slowest.

    Some people with sympathize and offer to let me go ahead of their big cart (which is definitely appreciated, and never asked for) but some seem almost annoyed with me. So I have to ask, is there some sort of unspoken rule that if you have the express line amount of items, you have to go in the express line? I thought that was just an option…?

  • Xtina October 5, 2011, 2:08 pm

    Does anyone remember the episode of Friends where Ross is teaching Rachel how to do laundry at the local laundromat? Another woman is trying to steal Rachel’s machine because she’s so obviously new at procedure at the laundromat that she thinks she can pull one over on it. Ross finally calls the woman out and says, “HEY HEY that’s not the rule and you KNOW IT!”. The woman slinks away in shame.

    This submission reminds me of that episode of the TV show. There are always people out there who know better (and you can bet if the tables were turned and someone tried to pull that on them, they’d complain loudly!), yet try to steamroll others into their entitled desires. Businesses should give more backup to employees who have to referee bad customers so as to make a better experience for good customers.

    @ Elizabeth–good on you, how you handled those entitled women. Simple, to the point. I hope you got a standing ovation for your actions that day! Shame to the entitlement pigs.

  • The Other Amber October 5, 2011, 2:27 pm

    I have seen people hold spots in line before, but if their partner isn’t there by the time they get up to the front then they always let whoever is behind them go first.

    The over the limit for the express line really, really bugs me. I think cash registers ought to have a button on them that can be programmed for the express line that will actually limit the number of items that can be checked through to whatever the lane limit is. If the limit is 12 items then great, once 12 items have been rung through that’s it, no more can be added. That would give the cashier some kind of back up for asking the offender to leave the line.

    One of our local grocery stores has a customer service counter where they sell certain items there (lottery etc) in addition to doing customer service type activities. They have a sign up saying limit of 8 items and only if you’re purchasing one of the items only sold at that counter along with your purchase. But they never, ever turn anyone away from that line, and even when the store isn’t busy they’ll actually call people over to use the counter as a regular checkout. Which is really annoying when you then have to stand in line to buy your 1 lottery ticket behind 6 people who are purchasing groceries, most of which are not buying lottery tickets or cigarettes etc. And it’s usually the manager who works that counter.

  • Nadine October 5, 2011, 3:43 pm

    It would be useful to know what is the store’s policy in such a situation. What does the store management expect of the cashier?

    My response would have been to have a quiet word with the store manager, after having paid for all my stuff. Did the casher follow the store policy? Is the store policy in error? Might the store policy be changed, seeing as how you the customer is complaining?

    If the cashier did not follow the store policy, then it’s up to the manager to correct him/her.

    If no policy exists, it’s time to make one and train the employees.

  • Enna October 5, 2011, 3:47 pm

    The cashier should have served you first OP as you were first there with your shopping. The cashier should have told the woman that she can’t save spaces, she wouldn’t like it if it was her on the waiting end especially since it is the “express lane.” Also the cashier should explain to the man that there is a limit and he had too much, again it would be defeating the point of the express lane. One or two items is one thing as it can be impossible to keep an accuate count all the time.

    One time when I was in a shop at university a boy pushed in front of me and I gave him an looked at him making it clear I didn’t like what he just done. I was just about to say something and the boy’s firend came to the till said “were you in front?” I said “Yes I was.” The cashier, a nice man, probably a stduent too said firmly to the boys “yes she was and I;m going to serve her first.” Now I think the boy who asked if I was first redeemed himself a bit not only because he said something did look bad too.

  • Jennifer October 5, 2011, 4:15 pm

    I have had an experience in the military px, which is what they call their grocery store. Now the lines in the px were long but ran very efficiently and one never had to wait more than fifteen minutes to get to the front of the line and no more than a minute or two max to be placed in a line. The line was always horrendously long and on one occasion I had the luxury of seeing a woman standing by her cart in the checkout queue when a child came up and put something in the basket, followed closely by another child. As my mom and I got closer we could over hear her telling them the next thing to get on her list. She stood there in line, so she wouldn’t have to be at the end of a slightly longer line, using her kids as her little puppets. I can see doing this for one or two items but when you have a half finished list, just get out of line and finish your shopping. I have had similar situations happen and have asked the person to step aside so I can help the next person while they wait, and politely also explain that it was an express lane she was standing in and that there are other lanes open. The only way to curb people from trying to take advantage of the system is to not tolerate their abusing it.

  • Angeldrac October 5, 2011, 4:35 pm

    I don’t think the cashier is necessarily to blame – they are often 14 year-olds at their first job and really not emotionally/practically equipped to deal with anything beyond just scanning and taking people’s money, the way someone 5 years older can (I was there once, I remember, and I see what my friends kids got through now in their first jobs). This is why is I have any kind of problem at a supermarket or fast-food store I ask for a manager, not because I’m mean and horrible, but because I don’t like to put that pressure on a younger, less experienced cashier.
    It’s down to the adults to be have like adults – something this couple did not do! Ehell the both of them!!!

  • hammiesmom October 5, 2011, 6:33 pm

    It can be a difficult situation. I worked in the commissary (military grocery store) for more than 16 years. I started as a cashier and worked my way up to Lead and Supervisor. We really tried to keep the express lines just that but I would never call out a customer because they had 15 items in the 12 items or less line. If the express line is really long it can be difficult for the cashier to even see how many items the customer has up on the belt until you have started ringing up their items. I always tried to serve the customer that I had at the front of the line and it can be impossible to ‘police’ the back of the line. I would sometimes let customers know in a joking/light manner (while I was checking them through) to please remember that this is an express line. Some truly weren’t paying attention. Some simply didn’t care and were going to get into whatever line they wanted.

    I don’t understand why anyone would be upset because someone had a few items and chose to stand in a line with no limit. There have been times when I have waved someone in front of me and other times when I have been waved in front of others. What goes around come around…

  • Craig Reed October 5, 2011, 7:02 pm

    Once, some years ago, I was at an office depot in Seattle when I came up to the checkout lines, there was a woman standing with her cart halfway between the line I had chosen and the one next to it. When I quietly asked which line she was in, she said, “Whichever one goes first.” Am I wrong to think she was impolite, or was she justified in her conduct? Her response has rankled me for years, now.


  • Catherine October 5, 2011, 7:54 pm

    I want to point out how awkward it can be when stores don’t clearly label their express lanes, or use those lanes for anything other than their designated purpose.
    One grocery shopping trip, I had a full cart and was ready to checkout. There was only one open lane with a human cashier, and then four self-checkout stands. Since I had a lot of fresh produce and other unlabeled items, I decided the self-checkout would take too long and got in line at the one open non-self-checkout lane. There was one person on line ahead of me, and no one behind me. All of the “express” lanes were closed, but also clearly labeled by overhead signs. I thought I was safe…
    Just as I was loading the last of my groceries onto the counter, an employee loudly dragged a “15 ITEM LIMIT” sign from UNDER the counter (where no one was meant to see it) and placed it at the entrance to the lane, throwing me an annoyed look. Of course, just then, people with only a few items started getting in line behind me, and now I looked like the jerk who took her full cart into the express lane! Awesome.

  • FerrisW October 5, 2011, 9:02 pm

    As someone who frantically counts the number of items in my basket before even approaching the 12 items or fewer line, I hate it when people clearly ignore the signs and think they can do what they want.

    This story actually reminds me of a situation where I don’t know if I was in the right or in the wrong. A week or so before Christmas I was at the supermarket with my mother, standing in the checkout queue with a reasonably full trolley. Being so close to Christmas, all of the checkouts were open, including the two 12 items or fewer lines and two other express lines that had been set up for people with baskets as opposed to trolleys. But there were still very long lines.

    As I started to unload our trolley onto the belt, a man walked up and said “I’m in a hurry and only have a couple of things, can I go in front of you?” and gestured to his basket with about four things in it. Normally I happily let the elderly or people with kids go in front of me if I have more things than them, but with other adults I only do so if they ask politely (after all, perhaps I’m also in a hurry), which this guy didn’t really do. Since it was Christmas I said yes, and said that since he only had four items I didn’t mind.

    Then the man yelled “Honey, over here!” and his wife and son, both carrying overflowing baskets, started heading over from the very long express queues. I immediately held up my hand and said, “I’m sorry, you asked if you could cut in, not if they could- so I’m afraid that won’t be possible” and the man started yelling at me that I’d made his wife and son lose their place in their lines. I apologised and said he’d mislead me and that between them they had almost as many items as those of us with trolleys did. The cashier was wonderful and told the man that he could be served but only with the items he was currently holding, or he could join his family in the express queues, but there was a long line of people who had been patiently waiting their turn. The man cussed me out for a few minutes then stormed off. I still feel a little guilty that his wife and son lost their place in their queues because of me, but I feel I made it clear that the reason I let him cut in was because he only had four items. I do wonder if I deserve to be in etiquette hell myself for this though.

  • Mary October 5, 2011, 9:39 pm

    I don’t think holding a place in line should be allowed at all. If I have my choice of several lines and I see a person in line without a cart, I would think that their transaction would be fast. If all of a sudden, a 2nd person gives the person in line a full cart, I am going to be pissed. I just wasted time in line when I could have picked a different line that would have gone faster, but I didn’t know that my line would have a full cart added to it!

  • Calli Arcale October 5, 2011, 10:29 pm

    It can be a difficult situation to handle; I can see where cashiers normally let it slide; someone who takes 50 items to the 10 item line is probably either making an innocent mistake (so punishing them may be unwarranted) or, more likely, is the sort of person who will make a very big stink if called on their boorishness. While the normal vindictiveness of human nature likes the idea of calling them on it anyway, what takes less emotional coinage — getting into a verbal fight with a customer, or just ringing up the groceries? Most of the time, it’s the latter. It usually falls into the category of “don’t sweat the petty stuff”.

    But yes, it is rude when people abuse the express line, knowing full well, and worse when they hold a place so they don’t have to be inconvenienced by having to wait. (Waiting is for people less clever than them, obviously.)

    When I was in college, I got into line with a few items. It wasn’t a very busy day, and there were only a couple of people ahead of me. I idly read headlines on the magazines on display while waiting my turn. And then this woman showed up, indignant that I had taken her place! You see, she had “saved” the space by leaving her basket there. That’s right, she didn’t even leave a human to hold the place — she set her little basket down, with one item in it, apparently expecting me to a) notice it and b) think that an abandoned basket meant something other than “person decided not to buy this stuff after all and ditched it” (which is what that usually means). I apologized and explained that I had not seen her basket, but she was still indignant and implied that I must be from one of those rude East Coast states since I didn’t know what a basket on the floor meant. When I told her I’d actually learned how to stand in line right here in Minnesota and then graciously said that since she was clearly in a much bigger hurry than me, I would be glad to let her go ahead, she went silent and I could actually see her struggling for words. I’d never actually seen that before. “Thank you” didn’t seem to enter her mind, but she tried to maintain her moral superiority by declining. So I reiterated that it was fine if she went ahead, I didn’t mind, and she did. But she was very quiet through the transaction, and perhaps realized that she hadn’t come out with the moral high ground after all.

    Kill ’em with kindness. Sometimes it actually does work, if they can realize that you were in the right all along but were not bothered and allowed them to go ahead. (And sometimes they just plow on ahead, but if they’re gonna do that, you’re not gonna change them anyway.)

  • Caros October 6, 2011, 6:41 am

    Interesting concept, could reduce all those queues so easily. I’m sure there would still be those wanting to race through the gates at the end ahead of everyone else though!


  • Shannon October 6, 2011, 8:57 am

    Mary – At my old store, we did placeholding, but that was only if you were picking up a few things. Say, a basket’s worth. If you had a cartload of things, you didn’t placehold for the very obvious reason that there wouldn’t be any room to nose a cart in due to the crowds. 🙂

  • Enna October 6, 2011, 10:48 am

    FerrisW – why should you feel guilty? that rude man should know he was being rude and it should be him feeling guilty, after all he was deceiving you and if his wife hadn’t gone along with it she wouldn’t have lost her place would she? It was HIS fault.

  • many bells down October 6, 2011, 10:56 am

    I’m with the people who hate it when I have a full cart and the express lane calls me over. I tell them I have too much stuff! And of course the minute I get in there people with one thing show up.

    Once I was checking out in the express lane at Target. I had a couple heavy items, so I had a cart. I’m not toting a gallon of milk around the store in a basket. A lady and her boyfriend get in line behind me and I hear from the boyfriend “I thought this line was 10 items or less!”, and the lady replying confusedly “But I only have two things.” It was clear he meant me.

    So as I unloaded, I counted each of my *eight* items out loud. Then I gave him a biiiig grin.

  • Maitri October 6, 2011, 11:18 am

    I think it’s rude to hold up the line whilst sending someone for “one last thing” or “the thing I forgot” also. I wouldn’t do it. And yes, I have forgotten things, and have gone back around (with toddler in tow) to grab what was forgotten and go through the line again.

  • Cami October 6, 2011, 12:08 pm

    This situation happened on an episode of ABC’s What Would You Do.

  • starstruck October 6, 2011, 7:57 pm

    iam sorry there is really no exuse for this. when i think i may only have a few items , i look down and count them . if i have i have more than the limit i go to another register. period!! they have express lanes for a reason. so unless you can’t count , and please, my eight year old can count the items in our buggy , there is no exuse !!!!

  • Kat October 6, 2011, 11:19 pm

    When I was a cashier, we were not allowed to turn people away for having more than the maximum number of items.

    We were also allowed to close our register and take only the people currently in line – not let anyone else enter the line. I went to a competing store one day and after having waited in the cashier’s line for about 10 minutes (through 2-3 other people), she looked up and said “sorry I’m closed.” This would never have flown where I worked… if you didn’t warn them away the minute they got in your line, you had to take them. (And she was still open – her light was still on – when we got in line.) I made the comment to my mom who was with me “She’s CLOSED even though we’ve been standing in line for several minutes.” The cashier, who I think was supposed to be going on break, went to the customer service desk and stared at us until we left the store. I think she was waiting to see if we’d report her and if we did she was going to defend herself.

  • Gracie C. October 7, 2011, 8:16 pm

    Craig – it depends on the store. Some stores feed from one line (my preference actually, since I always get stuck behind the problem transaction, while ten people in the line next to me get checked out while I remain behind one person) and some have individual lines. When it’s clearly one system over the other, I think you are well within your rights to ask the person to choose. Meanwhile, I go to a coffee shop across from my work often, and when you walk in the door, immediately to your right is a line that is almost always open. For some reason people cross the store and go to the spot where there are two lines formed. I feel bad every day when I walk in and go right to the counter of the open lane while 10 people wait in the two other lines. I still can’t figure out why they don’t figure it out. Even after I’m leaving the store with my order, people will still be patiently waiting their turn while an empty register goes unnoticed. The cashier just helps fill other people’s orders until someone knew comes along, so she never yells out for the next person. It’s all very weird.

  • Margaret October 8, 2011, 3:00 am

    Cheers for Ferris W — you absolutely did not make his wife and son lose their place in line. He told you he only had a few times. Four items plus two overflowing baskets is NOT just a few items. He deliberately set out to trick you into letting his family go first. What you did was the polite spine thing.

  • Bren October 13, 2011, 4:43 pm

    I have been a cashier for the last 10 years. Our store’s policy is that cashiers are not to get involved in customer line disputes. If the dispute gets too loud and/or physical, we are to call a manager. I have found that this policy is the same for most stores because they feel that by a cashier getting involved a customer could be offended. Also, we are told not to redirect customers who are incorrectly using the express line. I guess the bottom line is if you are a customer that plays by the rules, you will more than likely be run over by those that don’t and store policy is “We don’t care”!

  • Le_Meh November 9, 2011, 5:52 pm

    It is quite frustrating when you are in a hurry to pick up a few necessities at the grocery store, you go to the Express Lane and *BAM* there’s that one “entitled” customer who thinks that they are above the rule. I agree with someone who wrote that the checkout lanes should have an automatic stop after the limit. It also grinds my gears (a la Peter Griffin) the fact that the cashiers/managers are too cowardly to even bring it up. Everyone has to follows the rules, what makes this particular customer so entitled that he doesn’t have to?